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A Closer Look at Blended Learning Approaches

Blended learning case studies show how different approaches can be successful

AUSTIN, Texas – The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is releasing a series of case studies that examine five school and charter management operators’ implementation of blended learning.

As the education reform landscape evolves, blended learning is becoming more and more relevant to schools across the country. “Blending learning has the potential to support teachers in delivering individualized instruction to students by combining traditional face-to-face classroom methods with computer-based activities,” according to Cheryl Niehaus, program officer at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “These case studies can serve as an information source for schools that are interested in learning more about this type of blended learning model.”

Five charter management organizations across the nation participated in the case studies: Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Firstline Schools, KIPP LA, Rocketship Education, and Summit Public Schools. The studies examine each organization’s instructional and operational approaches to blended learning, and offer a high-level overview of each model’s potential financial implications. They also look at a number of other factors, including how each school chose its method of blended learning, and the major success factors and lessons learned from each implementation.

There are many different approaches to blended learning, and it can take on many shapes or forms, depending on the teachers and students involved. The schools that participated in these studies each utilize what is known as a “classroom rotation” or “station rotation” model of blended learning.

In the coming months, the foundation will also release a quantitative impact evaluation of the schools’ impact on students. “As there is still much to learn about the potential for blended learning models to improve outcomes for students,” said Niehaus, “I am also excited for the second part of this project, which includes an impact evaluation of these same schools during the 2011-12 school year.”

The foundation commissioned SRI International to conduct a one-year, quasi-experimental evaluation of these schools’ impact on students’ learning. After the evaluation period, the foundation retained FSG to prepare the case studies about each of their models so that the learnings could be shared with the public.

The case study introduction, along with the case study on KIPP Empower Academy, is now available at www.msdf.org/blendedlearning. In addition, a series of blog posts from the five operators and the authors has begun on the foundation’s blog, blog.msdf.org. To be notified when the other four case studies are released and when the related blogs are posted, please follow the foundation on Twitter at @msdf_foundation.